Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Here Come the Queers or The Actual Reality of Reality Television

Its a Sunday morning. I've been sleeping in on Sundays for as long as I can remember, but for some reason, despite the fact I was writing till 2am (burning Sandalwood incense that was making me a little high) and listening to Pink Floyd, I'm still awake at 9:30. Shit. My Sundays usually involve a trip to Wal-Mart, maybe later I'll catch a movie with a few of my good friends who also doesn't ascribe to Sundays, and once in a while, I'll go over to the flea market and pick up some more CDs and Sandalwood incense. I haven't gone to church regularly since elementary school. However, somewhere in the dark recesses of my psyche, is a layer of Catholic Guilt, and I feel guilty if I don't confess some sins once in a while. I've got a big one to confess this week and as I don't really have a priest to confess to, I'll confess to you guys, through this column.

Its something I've been horrified of ever since Who Wants to Be A Millionaire came on TV. Sure, I watched Millionaire, right along with everyone else in America for the first few months. But that was different. That was a game show. I love watching Game Show Network. It doesn't count, however sad it may be. It boosted my already vast stores of trivial knowledge. (And yet I still suck at Trivial Pursuit. Go figure.) I found I could answer a lot of the questions faster and more accurately than the contestants. And I did scream at my TV. Once. When the man who went for the million dollar question was asked "What Ship Rescued the Survivors of the Titanic?" Yes kids, this was after everyone in America had heard Leonardo DiCaprio declare he was the "King of the World". When the man got the question wrong (The answer is The Carpathia, you idiot! The Carpathia!) I yelled. I screamed. I would have cussed him out but my mother was sitting next to me and I don't curse in front of my mother. Maybe its because I loved learning about the Titanic way before the movie came out and could probably tell you anything you wanted to know about that night in April. Maybe its because if it were me up there *I* would have been walking with a million dollars.

Then, the real sinning began when an enterprising network saved its soul in the form of a little something called Survivor. While I'm sure this show made a fascinating study for the Sociologists among us, I thought it was much more exciting to watch my slightly tipsy family members interacting with other slightly tipsy family members at Christmas dinner than a bunch of random people eating bugs in the middle of nowhere and complaining about the heat. Besides. Air Conditioning is a beautiful thing. Sunburns in weird places, are not.

I balked at the atrocity of Survivor (Yes, I did watch the last episode of that first season), and wanted to vomit during multiple episodes of Fear Factor. I never quite understood the point of either Big Brother or The Mole. The Bachelorette was interesting, as was its predecessor, The Bachelor . However, I didn't see how difficult it could be for someone as good looking as Alex or Trista to meet someone other than through the murky channels of Reality Television.

And then it happened, that thing I don't like to talk about, that I need to confess. You see, despite all of these previous attempts to lure me into the evil web of Reality TV Addiction, one of them caught me. Sometime in either June or July, I got hooked on a Reality TV Show. It came in the form of a makeover show, called Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. I swear on my Les Miserabl├ęs novel I only watched it because after weeks of "Is that really him???" I realized that yes indeed, Jai ("The Culture Guy") was in fact the same actor I saw on Broadway a few summers ago. He's a fantastic dancer and is just adorable, either as "The Culture Guy" on Queer Eye or as Angel in RENT. That, and it was pretty fun to get to see the straight guy outnumbered by a bunch of gay men for once.

I was particularly intrigued to know what these straight, mostly attached men ("I missed too many wedding anniversaries", "I want to propose to the girlfriend", " I want the girlfriend to move in", etc.) felt whenever one of the guys made an overtly sexual joke in his direction (And virtually every scene involves at least one) or at the end of the episode, when one of the queers would kiss the straight guy on the neck or on the cheek. I wonder if they thought it was a gesture out of friendship or the thought of another boy kissing him on the cheek was a threat to his own masculinity.

And then something very intriguing happened. A very enterprising soul at BRAVO came up with the concept of what is now commonly referred to as "Queer-o-Vision". Playing episodes of Queer Eye For the Straight Guy, following episodes of another new show for all the homos out there in Reality TV land. Yes kids, I'm talking about Boy Meets Boy.

In case you haven't been watching Queer-o-Vision on BRAVO Tuesday nights because you, like myself, are horrified at the idea of Reality TV and are protesting by not viewing, (Or protesting because watching a show "because its gay" is stupid. Agreed.) this is the premise. A ridiculously good looking queer bachelor named James is given fifteen men to get to know, and possibly have a relationship with. Every week, James and his potential mates (Oh, and his best woman friend, Andra) go on group dates and hang out around the pool, and every week three guys are eliminated. The rest are asked to stay when offered a glass of champagne. If you watched Alex and Trista on their shows, this is quite reminiscent of the rose ceremony. Here's the catch: Some of the men are actually straight and neither James, Andra, or the gay mates know this. (You'd think you'd be able to click into your gaydar and just know, but trust me, it wasn't that easy with all of them.)

In order to win the game the straight mates must pretend to be someone they aren't. He has twenty five thousand dollars as incentive to beat the gay guys and win the money. If one of the gay mates are chosen, he and James go on a fabulous trip to New Zealand, I believe it was. Plus, James gets the twenty-five thousand. Say what you want about the fairness to James about the stipulation and getting emotionally involved with a guy who turns out to be straight. (And who among us hasn't had a crush on a close friend who was straight?) You have to admit, its a very intriguing concept.

Let me put this into perspective. A straight guy gets a taste of life on the other side. Where Queers outnumber Breeders and its the Norm to be gay. Where you hear the term "breeder" and know its you they're talking about and you can't let anyone in on the fact its you they're talking about. Where you are expected to be who you aren't and to hide who you truly are in order to fit in with the greater society, even if that society is a house. Where you are expected to live a lie or else be "found out". Where you're constantly questioning your motives, the way you talk, the way you walk, the way you sway your hips, the pronouns you use to talk about your lovers. Where you are constantly questioning yourself if you're hiding who you are to prove a point (rather, to prove to the homos you're not straight.) or to win the prize for the best actor. Where every minute of every day there is the chance that the nagging thoughts in the back of your mind of, "Why am I afraid of showing them who I really am" will slip and you will come to a point where one more man tries to kiss you thinking you're "one of them" and when you don't respond he questions whats wrong with you, and you have to throw up your hands and say, "I can't take this anymore. I'm straight." On that day, you realize the only person you're really fooling is yourself. You can't be afraid of being who you are because if you're living for someone else and not yourself, you're living a lie. To these men (and presumably women who watch the show), I say, welcome to our world.

Most of the straight guys came off the show saying how that experience had changed their perspective of the way queer folk (that would be us) viewed the world-as outcasts. And how it would be impossible to come out of living in that house with those guys and not learn something about themselves.

Most notable of all these in my mind, was Dan. Dan was a jock-type, short, stocky, good looking, and whenever questioned about his past relationships, he muttered something murky about a man in New York he was currently seeing but they were "open" to dating other people. Two episodes ago, when he got kicked off, Dan came out as a straight guy and said something about how he admired the gay men (and presumably women as well) who had gone through what he had merely tasted for a few weeks, trying to fit into a culture to which they knew they didn't belong-straight culture. He said how he admired them for having the courage to throw up their hands and say, "I can't take this anymore" and stop denying who they were. Dan, I applaud you, wherever you are.

This is what Reality TV should be about. Not lies or deception to win twenty five thousand dollars, but people having genuine learning experiences about themselves and other people. After a dozen or more test trials, the people finally got it right. So hats off to you, BRAVO for finally making Reality TV somewhat bearable, and a special thanks to Dan, wherever you are, for showing you true colors are beautiful, even if they are aren't necessarily a rainbow.

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